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15 Apr 2021

Cissy Zhou, South China Morning Post (Hong Kong)

China steps up plans for domestic Better Cotton Initiative amid forced labour concerns

"Xinjiang cotton ban, forced labour claims push China to step up plans for domestic Better Cotton Initiative", 15 April 2021

China has stepped up plans to launch its own version of the under-fire Better Cotton Initiative after the network cut off all ties with Xinjiang due to concerns about the alleged forced labour issue in the region, according to three people familiar with the matter.

Beijing-based cotton vertical service provider Zhongnong Guoji started the Weilai Cotton, or future cotton, project two years ago, but it did not make much progress until January when two state-backed organisations – the China Fashion Association and the Modern Seeds Development Fund – became involved, according to Zhao Yan, one of the coordinators for the project. [...]

“We have been living with Switzerland’s standards for years, but the country doesn’t even produce cotton. Now it is time to form our own national standards,” said Zhao.

Zhao, who will be the chief brand officer for the project, confirmed that the recent international hostility towards Xinjiang cotton had accelerated the project that is expected to demonstrate a “national aspiration” at this “crucial moment”.

The group may also establish a separate company called Weilai Cotton to run the day-to-day affairs and organise various events in the industry, added Zhao, with various preparations still ongoing before the project itself can be launched. [...]

Part of the following timelines

China: 83 major brands implicated in report on forced labour of ethnic minorities from Xinjiang assigned to factories across provinces; Includes company responses

China: Mounting concerns over forced labour in Xinjiang

Brands face boycott in China over decision not to source Xinjiang cotton due to allegations of forced labour